LANCASTER, NY - It's a landmark along the thruway in Lancaster, something you've zipped by countless times and perhaps wondered about.
The giant quarry north of the thruway, just east of Exit 49, has been mined for more than a century.
"It started in 1904," said Gary Nelson, Quality Control Manager and Geologist for the quarry's current owner Buffalo Crushed Stone.
The quarry, which now covers approximately 734 acres, is 1.5 miles long, three-quarters of a mile wide, and 100 feet deep.
"This quarry, land area wise, is probably about the biggest in the state," said Nelson, who noted that the quarry produces approximately 100 tons of hard limestone annually, used in a variety of building and construction projects.
What is produced here has literally helped lay the foundation beneath Western New York for more than a century.
"Whether you've driven on the Thruway, or been in a plane that's used the airport runway ...it was all built from products right from this quarry," Nelson said.
The rock is removed by blasting, and then collected to be processed where it is crushed into smaller and smaller sizes.
However, beyond producing everything from boulders for break walls, crushed stone for road and rail beds, and stone dust for cement and asphalt, the quarry's sheer walls also paint a portrait of eons of history.
"So what you're seeing here in geologic history is literally, probably 10 to 12 million years and if we would go up real close you can see the differences in the rock," said Nelson, adding that over the years the quarry has also served as a virtual learning lab.
It has hosted everyone from 8th grade science classes, to college geology and engineering students, according to Nelson. Biologists have come to study the migratory birds which call the quarry home, and it has also served as a training ground for certain law enforcement agencies.
"So it covers a lot of bases," said Nelson. "It's really kind of a neat place."
As big as this place is, it will get bigger…and as long as it has been here, it will be here for a while longer.
"To the east we can go all the way to Gunnville Road …there is still a lot of land over there that we have not yet begun to mine," said Nelson. "We'll probably be here another 75 years."
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Scott May.